Wimbledon: Roofless but ruthless, Andy Murray eases past Marin Cilic into last eight
IN THE end, Andy Murray let no one down. Indeed, he managed to get a few people off the hook with this 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Marin Cilic. The ruthlessly efficient despatching of the Croat saw him safely off court and into the last eight by shortly after 2pm, and before David Ferrer, his opponent today, had carried out an equally effective number on Juan Martin Del Potro.
The worry had been that the latter match, controversially switched to Centre Court on a day when more rain was forecast, might have been done and dusted long before the one involving Cilic and Murray, which had again been left to the mercy of the elements.
The concerns appeared well-founded when the protagonists on Court No 1 were led off by umpire Carlos Bernardes just six minutes after their contest had re-commenced following its suspension the previous day.
The mizzle had already begun again by the time Murray had served the ace to take a 4-1 lead in the second set. Another six points were played before the decision was taken to suspended play again, five of them won by Cilic. Did this mean the Croat had been re-invigorated by the extra night’s rest? Had Murray been knocked out-of-kilter by all the waiting around? And would Wimbledon officials be tried for high treason for having appeared to hinder Murray’s hopes of becoming a first British winner of the men’s single title here for over 70 years?
The Scot returned to the locker room to collect his thoughts and speak with his coach, Ivan Lendl. He then sat back and listened to some Ed Sheeran tunes on his iPod. Whatever gets you through a rainbreak, I suppose.
There wasn’t time to slip too far out of the zone, however. By just after 1pm the players had been called back out to court, with Murray again due to serve.
With no guarantees about the weather, the onus was on him to get things done as quickly as possible. Though he later said that the threat of further rain was not a factor in the pace at which he went about his business in this final segment of the match, it certainly seemed as though someone had pressed a fast-forward button.
Even Cilic appeared content for things to be wrapped up as quickly as possible. He had the demeanour of someone who wanted to be anywhere else but here, beneath these oppressive, battleship grey skies. This was not the heavy-hitting, nimble-footed menace we had been warned to expect.
Murray secured a break of serve in the second game after the players had returned to court to go two sets up. He managed to save his first service game of the third set despite going 15-40 down, before the rain again began to cause some anxiety. The players were included in the consultation. To his credit, Cilic seemed as keen as anyone to get going again. Within half an hour, he had got what he apparently wanted, which was permission to leave the court for good. Murray had again broken quickly and seemed happy for the rest of the set to go with serve, before he sealed victory in its ninth game, winning his final service game to love.
Cilic shuffled off almost apologetically, the latest victim of a player whose momentum has taken him through to a fifth consecutive quarter-final here. Next up is Ferrer, and though Murray’s route to this stage has been far from straightforward, this is where it really does begin to get tough.
There can be no assurances against someone who defeated the Scot at the same stage of the French Open just a few weeks ago.
That might have been on Ferrer’s preferred surface of clay, but, as Murray pointed out yesterday, after triumphing at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands last month, the Spaniard “has now won about eight matches in a row on grass”.
Although Ferrer himself said grass was his worst surface after that win, Murray wasn’t letting anyone away with describing the lone Spaniard left in the field as a “clay court specialist”, as one reporter did yesterday. “No he is not,” replied Murray. “To me he’s not a clay court specialist. He’s been in the semi-finals at Australia, and the semi-finals at the US Open.” Roger Federer has also described him as the best returner in the men’s game, and Murray clearly rates Ferrer as an all-rounder, while also having a lot of time for him.
“He’s a very nice guy, he’s a great professional,” he said. “He’s playing the best tennis of his career in his thirties, which it seems is happening more and more now with guys.
“He’s been with the same coach his whole career. He has the same team that he’s always had. He’s just kept working, doing all the right things and just kept improving. He’s improved his serve, he’s improved his game on all courts. He’s now winning matches everywhere. That’s credit to him and he deserves it because he works very hard.”
But Murray, too, deserves some tangible reward for his persistence. He has played and behaved impeccably at Wimbledon so far. He has proved versatile, mixing up his game to suit – or perhaps that should be not suit – his opponent. His second serve, once an Achilles’ heel, has been an outstanding weapon here, while his running forehands, the product of endless drills with Lendl, has also proved effective, particularly yesterday.
Even Murray’s attitude has been next-to-faultless. His public pronouncements on “Courtgate” were well-measured. He knows nothing is to be gained from slamming anyone, and, in any event, he has now easily negotiated his only appearance at Court No 1. He returns to Centre Court today and can take comfort from knowing his clash with Ferrer will go ahead as scheduled. While drama is also certain to be on the menu, there are few other guarantees.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 9 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West